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The use of armed private security contractors (PSCs) in the Iraq war has been unprecedented. Not only government agencies but also journalists, reconstruction contractors, and nongovernmental organizations frequently view them as a logical choice to fill their security needs, yet there have been a number of reports of PSCs committing serious, and sometimes fatal, abuses of power in Iraq. This study uses a systematic, empirically based survey of opinions of U.S. military and State Department personnel on the ground in Iraq to shed light on the following questions: To what extent are armed PSCs perceived to be imposing costs on the U.S. military effort? If so, are those costs tempered by positive contributions? How has the use of PSCs affected U.S. military operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom? While the military personnel did report some incidents of unnecessarily threatening, arrogant, or belligerent contractor behavior, the survey results indicate that neither the U.S. military nor State Department personnel appear to perceive PSCs to be “running wild” in Iraq. Moreover, respondents tended to consider PSCs a force multiplier rather than an additional strain on military troops, but both military and State Department respondents held mixed views regarding the contribution of armed contractors to U.S. foreign policy objectives.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Private Military and Security Contractors Are Not a New Phenomenon: A Brief History of Military Privatization

  • Chapter Three

    Do Private Security Contractors Have a Negative Impact on Military Retention and Morale?

  • Chapter Four

    Have Private Security Contractors Had an Adverse Effect on Local Iraqis' Perceptions of the Entire Occupying Force Because of the Legal Impunity with Which They Operated in Iraq Prior to 2009?

  • Chapter Five

    Is There a Relative Lack of Unit Cohesion and Systematic Coordination Between Private Security Contractors and the Military?

  • Chapter Six

    Do Private Security Contractors Play a Valuable Supporting Role to the U.S. Military as a Force Multiplier?

  • Chapter Seven

    Do Private Security Contractors Provide Skills and Services That the Armed Forces Lack?

  • Chapter Eight

    Do Private Security Contractors Provide Vital Surge Capacity and Critical Security Services?

  • Chapter Nine

    Summary of Findings and Policy Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Methodology

  • Appendix B

    Screen Shots of Final Survey as Fielded to Members of the Military

  • Appendix C

    Screen Shots of Final Survey as Fielded to State Department Personnel

The research described in this report was sponsored by the Smith Richardson Foundation and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD). NSRD conducts research and analysis for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the defense agencies, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Intelligence Community, allied foreign governments, and foundations.

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